Does Helen Thomas have a Jewish problem (and why isn’t the media talking about it)?

Thomas is a tough reporter, but is she an anti-Semitic one too?

As a reporter, Helen Thomas is a living legend, but like so many legends the longer you live, the more likely you are to begin tarnishing that legacy.   The first stain on her reputation came when she responded to a question during Jewish Heritage Month commemoration at the White House that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine.”

Thomas’ remarks were captured by a conservative website and is making the rounds of the blogosphere as proof of her anti-Semitic sentiments.   From my perspective it looks like the video has been edited with a heavy hand (music and title cards added for extra effect). but Thomas still comes off terribly.  She issued an apology on her website, but that sort of tepid butt-covering won’t do much to quell the blistering criticism the 89-year-old columnist for Hearst Newspapers is being blistered with.

At Right, Shannon Bell observed,” For Helen Thomas, Jews should “Get the hell out of Palestine” is nothing short of anti-Semitism. As Jeff Dunetz points out at Big Journalism, being anti-Israel is one thing. Being anti-Semitic is a totally different ball game. Helen Thomas is clearly playing in the latter.”

However the depth of Thomas animosity toward Israel was on display a few days earlier during an exchange with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

You watch this video and have to try to decide: Is this “Tell It Like It Is” journalism or is it  “Editorializing Because I Have An Agenda?”  That isn’t just demanding a straight answer.  That’s an overtly partisan statement phrased as a question.

Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer has called for Thomas to be let go over her remarks.

“She should lose her job over this,” Fleischer said in an email. “As someone who is Jewish, and as someone who worked with her and used to like her, I find this appalling.”

“She is advocating religious cleansing. How can Hearst stand by her? If a journalist, or a columnist, said the same thing about blacks or Hispanics, they would already have lost their jobs.”

I agree with Fleischer. If this had been Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter or Glenn Beck making similar remarks that Blacks or Hispanics should “go back home’ they would be boiled alive in the mainstream media for such intemperate remarks. Regardless of what side you come down on Israel’s actions against the ships running the Gaza blockade it crosses the line to turn it into a “Let’s Bash the Jews” session.

Liberals are often accused of having an anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian and that there is a strain of anti-Semitism within liberal thought. When one person who expresses a viewpoint that is abhorrent whether we agree with their politics shouldn’t matter. Instead, the relative quiet from liberal-leaning news publications and blogs over what Thomas said is obvious and overt.

She shouldn’t be treated her with kid gloves because of her age or her venerated place as the “First Lady of the White House Press Corps.” Thomas made her rep by asking tough questions. Her bewildering remarks have made her the target for tough questions as to whether she has a Jewish problem.

It’s time for Thomas to retire gracefully or be fired swiftly. At the very least she deserves a long suspension by Hearst Newspapers. She’s hopelessly compromised her integrity as a journalist

UPDATE: Helen Thomas announced her retirement effective immediately according to a press release from Hearst Newspaper.   White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday,   “I think those remarks were offensive and reprehensible. She should and has apologized because obviously those remarks do not reflect certainly the opinion of most of the people in here and certainly of the administration.”

6 thoughts on “Does Helen Thomas have a Jewish problem (and why isn’t the media talking about it)?

  1. Funny – as I listened to Helen’s questions/remarks I didn’t feel that she was out of line. It sounded like she wanted to know why the administration (like others before it) seems to cast a blind eye to the actions of Israel. We have chosen to be a staunch supporter of the Jewish state despite the fact that it regularly chooses actions that we disagree with or ignores sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

    It’s probably no easy matter for Israel to be surrounded by Arab nations who are hostile to that nation’s very existence. But Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognize the State of Israel (back in 1949) and they have had a long cooperative relationship. The two nations signed a free trade agreement in 2000 (another first between the Muslim and Jewish nations) and there is a plan to build a huge pipeline from Turkey to Israel to supply water, electricity, gas and oil). The recent attack on the Gaza flotilla was condemned by a number of nations including most of Europe and Latin America. The United States has expressed its regrets for the loss of life and the injured, but hasn’t condemned the attack itself.

    So is Helen Thomas expressing a personal issue with Jewish people or questioning the actions of our government officials? I can’t really say.


  2. I read her remarks, I don’t see them as anti Jewish. It’s interesting that the events that led to the remarks haven’t been a big deal. I don’t think she should have made the comments at an event rin regognition of Jewish Heritage, but she’s 89 years old. She’s grumpy, and prone to speak before she thought.
    I don’t think she should be fired for it.


  3. Did you guys watch the video as well? I’m sorry, but I think there’s a double standard at work here. There is no doubt in my mind if this were a right-wing conservative suggesting Latinos ‘get out of California” you would be deafened from the howls of outrage from the Left.

    The fact that Thomas being 89 years old is not an excuse. If she speaks before she thinks, maybe she doesn’t belong in the White House Press Corps. She isn’t even a reporter. She writes a column for Hearst newspapers. Most columnists are not part of the WH press pool. She is an institution, but if she’s going to have meltdowns like this, maybe she should BE in an institution.


    • Yes, I watched the video – twice. There’s NOTHING in what she asked that mentioned Jews or even named Israel itself (although it was obvious which country she was talking about). She stated that it was “a deliberate massacre”, “an international crime” that should be “strongly condemned”. She questioned why the government has a “sacrosanct iron-clad relationship” with a country that has done an act that we would be up in arms about if it had been any other country.

      I was happy to see her there. Somebody should have the nerve to ask the government why it does what it does. The fact that she’s 89 certainly makes her an institution within the White House Press Pool but what makes you right in saying that she needs to be fired, suspended, or institutionalized? Truman and I didn’t see anything in her comments that was disrespectful or anti-Semite. And if her timing was bad, then perhaps Israel shouldn’t commit such acts just before Jewish Heritage Month. If she’s guilty of bad timing what do you call what Israel did?

      In 1974 CBS White House correspondent, Dan Rather, gained a great deal of notice when after receiving applause from the audience at a National Association of Broadcasters convention in Houston, he was asked by then-President Nixon, “Are you running for something?” His response, “No sir, Mr. President, are you?” was seen by many as unprofessional, arrogant and an affront to the dignity of the President. Although CBS considered firing Rather, he was promoted to a correspondent role on 60 Minutes and later the successor to Walter Cronkite on the CBS Eventing News. I guess sometimes it can be OK to be disrespectful. Except if you’re an old lady picking on Israel for killing people and wanting to cover it up…

      When she was asked by a Jewish rabbi (outside a Jewish Heritage event) if she had any comments on Israel, she responded that “they should get out of Palestine” and “that the people there were under occupation”. When asked where they should go, her response was “they should go home”, “back to Poland, Germany, America and ‘everywhere else’.” She issued an apology for these comments last week and chose to retire.

      Now she probably should have known better than say what she thought, but how many of us are willing to put our beliefs on the line? We may never have another Helen Thomas in the White House and she may have been there too long. But I doubt that we’ll see another person with her experience and willingness to be “politically incorrect” when it comes to questioning our government’s relationship with Israel. You can do pretty much anything you want as long as you don’t ask questions that might offend our Jewish friends.

      And that might be more’s the pity.


      • No one doubts Helen Thomas is an journalistic institution, but when you go off in such an overtly partisan manner, you are editorializing, not reporting. She acted as if she belonged in an institution.

        You’re trying to make a case of moral equivalency that doesn’t exist. Israel’s attack on the ships running the Gaza blockade was an act of brutal piracy and the country deserves the condemnation it is receiving. However, that’s no justification for Thomas to go off on a rant against Jews that would make David Duke smile.

        Thomas wasn’t even a reporter any longer. She was a columnist for Hearst Newspapers, though her column wasn’t carried by many papers. Howard Kurtz wrote in the Washington Post yesterday that her repugnant views were well-known by her peers.

        While the 89-year-old Thomas is renowned as a trailblazer who aggressively questioned 10 presidents — including President Obama, whom she pressed last month on Afghanistan — her hostility toward Israel has been no secret within the Beltway. Though she gave up her correspondent’s job a decade ago, she retained her front-row briefing-room seat, even as colleagues sometimes rolled their eyes at her obvious biases.

        “She asked questions no hard-news reporter would ask, that carried an agenda and reflected her point of view, and there were some reporters who felt that was inappropriate,” said CBS correspondent Mark Knoller. “As a columnist she felt totally unbound from any of the normal policies of objectivity that every other reporter in the room felt compelled to abide by, and sometimes her questions were embarrassing to other reporters.”

        In 2002, Thomas asked Fleischer: “Does the president think that the Palestinians have a right to resist 35 years of brutal military occupation and suppression?”

        Four years later, Thomas told Fleischer’s successor, Tony Snow, that the United States “could have stopped the bombardment of Lebanon” by Israel, but instead had “gone for collective punishment against all of Lebanon and Palestine.” Snow tartly thanked her for “the Hezbollah view.”

        Mark Rabin, a former freelance cameraman for CNN, said that in a 2002 conversation at the White House, Thomas said “thank God for Hezbollah” for driving Israel out of Lebanon, adding that “Israel is the cause for 99 percent of all this terrorism.”

        The Daily Caller Web site noted that during a 2004 speech to the Al-Hewar Center, a Washington-based Arab organization, Thomas likened Palestinian protesters resisting the “tyrannical occupation” by Israel to “those who resisted the Nazi occupation.”

        I’m not opposed to criticism of Israel. I’m opposed to a supposed journalist pushing their personal beliefs and agenda in the wrong forum., If Helen Thomas had not chosen to jump off the ledge she was on she would have been pushed off. And I believe her employer would have absolutely right to do so.


  4. OK – you’re entitled to feel the way you choose. But the video that you attached to the article was not representative of Helen Thomas’ rant about Israel. You needed to attach the one where she was asked about Israel not her questioning the Gaza attack.

    She’s entiltled to her opinion as well. She was asked a question outside of the Jewish Heritage festival by a rabbi and responded as she chose. So speaking her mind ends her career. But why aren’t you questioning why she was asked that question at that occasion? Was she being setup. You make the point that her opinion regarding Israel was a known quantity. Do when Rabbi David Nesenoff asked her the infamous question did he have an alternative motive for it?

    “The Nesenoff video went viral after being picked up by Yidwithlid, a popular site run by the conservative commentator Sammy Benoit, and then posted to the hyper-popular conservative video site Breitbart TV.

    That’s when the complaints started: First out of the box was B’nai B’rith International, which issued a June 4 statement from its president, Dennis Glick, demanding that Thomas be fired.”

    “The first death knell for Thomas’ career, though, probably came when she found herself being criticized on liberal websites such as Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo, which have long lauded her for asking discomfiting questions of presidents—particularly her encounters with George W. Bush during the Iraq War.

    So you joining the choir of people saying that she deserves her fate doesn’t strike me as taking much of a stance. Especially since you used the wrong video to express your point. She’s done and now we can move on with our lives. But I think this was a piece of shabby journalism from the beginning and I don’t take any satisfaction that the crowd finally got Helen Thomas.

    Lynch-mob journalism at it’s best.


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